You may have read or heard some of these before, but like good green vegetables as a food choice, you probably can’t get too many of them in your mental diet. I find them refreshing and encouraging, inspiring and amusing. They help me breathe a sigh of relief, and they lighten my load. They free me up when I start wanting to feel sorry for myself. They help put life in perspective. They help prevent whining.
Henry Ford had five businesses that failed before he started a successful car business.
RH Macy had seven failed businesses before he opened Macy’s department store.
Soichiro Honda applied for a job as an engineer with Toyota, was rejected, and was unemployed for months before starting Honda Motor Company.
Akio Morita, founder of Sony, designed a rice cooker as his first product. It burned rice and was a total flop.
Colonel Sanders had his chicken recipe rejected hundreds of times before he opened Kentucky Fried Chicken.
Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper editor for lack of imagination.
Lucille Ball was considered very unpromising by her drama teachers and advised to look for another line of work. Early in her career she was considered a B actress, at best.
Most of Emily Dickenson’s poems remained in her desk drawer during her lifetime.
Helen Keller, well, you know about her.
John Lennon was dyslexic. (Dyslexic: has a hard time with words. Ha!).
Einstein was considered slow as a child. He didn’t speak till he was four. He couldn’t get a job at any university at the time he wrote four of the most important physics papers ever written by anyone, anywhere, at any time.
Darwin’s father was very unimpressed with his young son’s intellectual abilities. (Way to go, dad!)
Isaac Newton failed at running the family farm before his uncle sent him to Cambridge.
In his day, Socrates was labeled an immoral corruptor of youth.
Edison failed at least a 1000, if not 10,000 times, designing a damned light bulb that would work.
The Wright Brothers suffered numerous failed attempts at making a plane that would fly, which only made their depression worse.
Mark Victor Hansen went bankrupt and wanted to kill himself before starting, with Jack Canfield, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books, which have sold over 100 million copies.
Lincoln suffered from depression and failed throughout his life, until he didn’t.
Winston Churchill failed the sixth grade. He went walking the black dog, his code words for depression, quite often.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter, since she was unfit for TV.
Harry Truman went bankrupt before becoming president.
Jerry Seinfeld froze during his first performance and was booed off stage.
Fred Astaire: “Can’t act, can’t sing, can dance a little,” comments from his first audition.
Hollywood studios initially rejected Charlie Chaplin as too nonsensical.
After his first film, executives told Harrison Ford he didn’t have what it takes to be a star.
Van Gogh sold one painting in his lifetime, to a friend, for not much money.
Beethoven’s teachers thought he was hopeless.
A crowd ran the composer Igor Stravinsky out of town after his debut performance.
Mozart was dismissed from his position as a court musician.
Jack London’s first story was rejected over 500 times.
During his lifetime, Claude Monet was mocked as an artist.
Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, was rejected 30 times, so he threw it in the trash.
Steven Spielberg was rejected by USC film school.
Charles Schultz was turned down for a job by Walt Disney. Schultz later created Peanuts.
27 publishers turned down Dr. Seuss’s first book.
“The colossus of independence,” John Adams, second president of the United States, “who was learned beyond all but a few,” suffered from self-doubt.
Elvis Presley was told to go back to truck driving.
Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team.
And so on.
The lesson I walk away with from these examples is that most of us are not failing enough. We’re playing it safe. We’re picking up our toys and sulking off to our rooms before we’ve even given the game our best shot, and then our next, and our next, and our next until we break through to the place where we are gifting the world with what we have to offer.
Another word for a failure is a mistake. A mistake is a mis-take, a shot that didn’t take, a shot that didn’t quite make it into the basket. So take a shot, and then another, and then another. Learn something each time, like Edison did, like Lucille Ball did. Miss as many shots as it takes until you start sinking them, because that’s what it takes, even if you’re Michael Jordan, Lucille Ball, or Abraham Lincoln.
So go out there and fall on your face. Get it over with. Do it again and again.
If you really want to live, you’ve got to fail. If you really want to learn how to shoot, you’ve got to go out there and miss a few shots—or a few thousand shots.
There’s no other way.
But there is a way.
So get on the court and keep playing.
And enjoy the game.
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